The holidays have passed and the New Year has begun, and if you’re like most Americans, you probably gave or received a gift card this past holiday season. You may be thinking to yourself that gift cards always expire before you can use them, or that you receive inactivity fees without even knowing it, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Now that you’re ready to go shopping with these new gift cards there are a few things that you should know.
The Illinois Statute regarding gift certificates (815 ILCS 505/2SS) defines a “gift certificate” as most items that we would think of as a gift card/certificate, including a store issued gift card. However, this definition does not include: prepaid internet disks, prepaid calling cards and, most importantly, does not include bank-issued gift cards or pre-paid debit cards.
With the growing popularity of bank-issued gift cards or pre-paid debit cards, it is important to know that these two types of cards that you received over the holidays are not covered under the Illinois law.
It is also important to know that the Illinois statute applies to any gift card or gift certificate that was issued on or after January 1, 2008.
The Illinois statue provides two major protections:
However, this Illinois law does not provide that a customer can get cash back for small amounts left on the card.
The Federal law has similar protections under The Credit Card Act which was passed by Congress in 2009. The Act, which deals with protecting credit card holders, also protects holders of gift cards.
The Credit Card Act of 2009 is very similar to the provisions of the Illinois Law in which it also enforces the inability of a gift card to expire prior to 5 years of issuance. A slight difference from the Illinois law is that post-sale fees are allowed after one year of inactivity only if the fees are clearly displayed on the card’s packaging.
The main difference between the Illinois law and the Federal law is that The Credit Card Act goes one step further and protects bank-issued gift cards (but not prepaid debit cards which are not intended for gifting).
With this important information, you can now use your gift cards with confidence and with a new found appreciation for the legislative process. As always, you should always read the fine print carefully. However, no matter what the fine print says, you have these basic protections provided under the Illinois statute 815 ILCS 505/2SS and The Credit Card Act.
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